Faculty Profiles

Dr. Ilene R. Berson

Professor, Area Coordinator of Early Childhood Programs, and Early Childhood Ph.D. Coordinator

berson headshot

Email: iberson@usf.edu


Dr. Ilene R. Berson is a Professor of Early Childhood at the University of South Florida and coordinates the Early Childhood Doctoral program in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Learning. She also holds affiliate faculty status in Learning Design and Technology as well as Qualitative Research.

Dr. Berson teaches courses on Early Childhood Integrated Social Studies, Humanities and Arts; ICT in the Early Years; Visual Research Methods; and Cybersecurity in the Schools. She conducts participatory research to explore young children’s civic engagement through multiple literacies and studies the intersection of technology and the pedagogy of inquiry in the early years with a focus on children's affordances of ICT innovations. She also has led international studies on integrating social justice and child advocacy into early childhood teacher preparation. 

Dr. Berson’s internationally recognized work on the integration of digital play with tangible technologies in the early childhood environment has informed the design of digital resources and classroom pedagogies. Her findings provide insight as to how preschool children develop spatial reasoning and transversal competences, including problem solving, inquiry and computational thinking and communication skills as they play with tangible technologies. Moreover, her research on cybercitizenship spans over two decades and has sought to optimize the engagement of young students’ access and use of digital technologies by preparing children and youth to question information sources and assess their legitimacy, engage in critical decision-making to inform constructive choices and behaviors, and evaluate messages intended to manipulate beliefs and actions. She studies the effects of cyberliteracy and concepts of cybercitizenship on risk and decision-making behaviors with digital technologies.

Dr. Berson has met with policy leaders worldwide to discuss children in digital spaces. She has been a key presenter on Issues of Human Behavior in On-line Security and Privacy Protection at a U.S. Senate Policy Forum on Privacy, Security and Identity in a Networked, Data Driven Educational Environment; an invited speaker at Oxford University to discuss her research on children and privacy infringements in a digital age; invited to speak in the UK at Parliament; and has been the keynote presenter at several conferences in New Zealand that brought international researchers together to focus on the social impact of the Internet. 

Dr. Berson has authored more than 120 publications and has extensively disseminated her research, delivering keynote addresses worldwide. Her most recent book is titled "Participatory methodologies to elevate children’s voice and agency," and she led the development of the Policy Statement on Early Childhood Social Studies for the National Council for the Social Studies. Other recent publications have appeared in the Journal of Research on Technology in Education, Multicultural Perspectives, Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, Social Education, the Journal of Social Studies Research, and Social Studies and the Young Learner.

Dr. Berson has been the principal investigator on numerous grants from organizations such as the Spencer Foundation, the Library of Congress, the Florida Department of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop innovative solutions that promote young children’s well-being and educational outcomes. She has been honored for her outstanding contributions and excellence in teaching, research, and service, receiving recognitions that include the USF President’s Award for Women in Leadership, USF Global Academic Partner Scholar, USF Institute on Black Life Service Award, USF Office of Undergraduate Research CREATTE Scholar, American Educational Research Association Special Interest Group Research in Global Child Advocacy Distinguished Service Award, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Excellence in Evaluation Award, and the National Child Labor Committee Service Award.


Research Areas:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Social Studies and Young Children
  • Technological Innovation in the Early Years
  • Teaching with Primary Sources
  • Global Child Advocacy
  • Visual Research Methods in Education
  • Participatory Methodologies
  • Digital Citizenship/Cybersecurity in Schools

Courses Taught:

  • EDG 3801: Cybersecurity and the Everyday Citizen
  • EDG 6436: Cybersecurity in the Schools
  • EDG 6906: Independent Study in Early Childhood
  • EDG 7368: Visual Research Methods in Education
  • EDG 7931: Selected Topics in Early Childhood
  • EDG 7938: CELS Doctoral Seminar: Introduction to Research
  • EEC 4212: Integrated Curriculum: Social Sciences, Humanities, and Art
  • EEC 4408: Child/Family/Teacher Relations
  • EEC 4936: Senior Seminar: Early Childhood Education
  • EEC 4943: Early Childhood Field Experience III
  • EEC 4940: Internship: Early Childhood
  • EEC 6055: Advocacy and Leadership in Early Childhood Education
  • EEC 6678: Research Seminar: Issues and Trends in Early Childhood Education
  • EEC 7056: Leadership & Advocacy: Issues Affecting Young Children  
  • EEC 7306: Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood
  • EEC 7317: ICT in the Early Years
  • EEC 7910: Directed Research Early Childhood  
  • EEC 7980: Dissertation
  • IDH 4970: Honors Thesis
  • IDS 4914: Advanced Undergraduate Research Experience
  • MHS 4906: Directed Study in Resilience and Risk for Perpetration of Child Maltreatment
  • MHS 4912: Behavioral Health Research
  • MHS 4931: Research Topics in Behavioral Health Studies
  • MHS 6110: Qualitative Analysis in Infant Mental Health
  • MHS 6110: Computer Analysis with Child Welfare Data

Research Projects: